B.C. Binning House, 1941
B.C. Binning House, 1941
West Vancouver, BC
Designed by B.C. Binning with consulting architects C.E. Ned Pratt and R.A.D. Berwick
Landscape design by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
B.C. Binning was a renowned B.C. artist and champion for regional architecture and design. Designed by B.C. Binning and completed in 1941, the Binning House is revered in artistic, architectural, and heritage circles, standing as a testament to Binning’s artistic influence, and to his pivotal role in the emergence of a regional architectural expression of modernism on the west coast (West Coast Modernism). Beyond being a cultural hub in the artistic and architectural communities, the Binning House stands as Canada’s first modern residence, and pioneering example of the characteristics that have come to define West Coast Modernism and the design principles that have since permeated city building efforts across the region. Under the auspices of Jesse Binning, who acted to preserve the house and surrounding grounds, it was recognized as a Municipally Designated Heritage Property in 1999, governed by Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 4157 and Heritage Maintenance Bylaw No. 4187, and a National Historic Site of Canada in 1997.
Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) Proposal: There is currently a proposal for a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA 17-030) on the B.C. Binning House. The proposal seeks to subside the property and build a new residence while revitalizing the existing house.
Details of the proposal can be found here: https://westvancouver.ca/…/bc-binning-house-2968-mathers-cr…
Feedback: If you have any concerns about the proposal, speak up! Submit your comments directly to the District of West Vancouver. See contact details in the link above. Please also let us know your thoughts by posting to our Facebook page, or sending an email to email@example.com.
January 12, 2019: The District of West Vancouver’s Heritage Advisory Committee reviewed the HRA proposal and passed a motion of non-support on the basis of the following concerns:
- The subdivision of the property compromises the National designation and municipal bylaws;
- The site has existing heritage protection that should be enforced;
- The offer in exchange for the proposed subdivision is insufficient;
- The proposal compromises the intrinsic value of the BC Binning house and property.
December 21, 2018: The updated proposal will be reviewed by the District of West Vancouver’s Heritage Advisory Committee on January 10, 2019.
December 1, 2018: An updated proposal has been submitted to the District of West Vancouver in response to the latest recommendations of the Design Review Committee.
- Pulls the cantilevered wall back 2′ from the new J House
- Clarifies the height of the art box on the J House
November 15, 2018: District of West Vancouver Design Review Committee considered the revised HRA proposal and recommended support with further study by District staff on the items noted below.
- Further design development of the cantilevered wall to consider both access from below and the design of the planting above to reflect something that is more comfortable for the users of the J House
- Limit the height of the art box so that it is consistent with the sections
October 26, 2018: A revised proposal has been submitted for reconsideration by the District of West Vancouver Design Review Committee. The committee is scheduled to consider the proposal at its November 1, 2018 meeting.
November 16, 2017: District of West Vancouver Design Review Committee considered the proposal and passed the following recommendations. According to the District, the proponent is required to address the recommendations and resubmit to the Design Review Committee for consideration.
THAT the Design Review Committee commends the applicant for the restoration of the Binning House and that the committee recommends RESUBMISSION that addresses the following concerns:
- Access to the new J House;
- Volume, scale and proximity of the J House in relationship to the Binning House;
- Provide a landscape plan for the entire site;
- Provide details of the green roof and planting materials;
- Consider the volume and sitting of the proposed new garage and caretaker suite; and
- Reconsider the extent of manipulation of the landscape to accommodate the proposed driveway.
April 5, 2017: A proposal has been submitted to the District of West Vancouver for the subdivision and development of the B.C. Binning house and property.
2018.03.27 – STATEMENT ON THE B.C. BINNING HOUSE HRA PROPOSAL 17-030
VANCOUVER: The West Coast Modern League is opposed to, and concerned for, the Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) proposed on the B.C. Binning House (a Municipally Designated Heritage Property and National Historic Site). Our concerns are that the proposal aims to develop a site that is already legally protected, that the intervention, in its current form, will significantly undermine key aspects of the property’s heritage value, and that this scenario presents a precedent which could undermine the immutability of heritage protections in the District of West Vancouver.
The West Coast Modern League is generally supportive of Heritage Revitalization Agreements and view this policy as an important and effective mechanism to incentivize the protection of undesignated properties with significant heritage value. We commend the District of West Vancouver on its efforts to offer and enact this policy, to actively explore this mechanism with owners of historically notable sites, and to preserve the rich design history that is unique to this area. It is our position, however, that in this instance the HRA proposal is inappropriate.
This HRA proposal presents an aggressive redevelopment of the property, to subdivide the narrow, comparatively small lot, to construct a larger garage with caretaker suite, and to build a new home on the existing ocean-side terrace. In exchange for these incentives, the proposal offers to rehabilitate the existing house and to entertain an HRA. The Binning House, however, has been subject to heritage protection and legally required maintenance since 1999, namely Heritage Designation Bylaw No. 4157 and Heritage Maintenance Bylaw No. 4187, and has been recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada since 1997. This constraint was commonly known and publicized at the time of purchase, and was reflected in the subsequent market price. The repercussions of opening up an existing heritage property to this level of redevelopment, particularly a site of such stature, sets up a scenario whereby all heritage designated sites could be contested in order to unlock development potential. This could undermine the District’s enforcement of existing and future protections, and further threaten an already insecure heritage stock.
Both regionally and nationally, the Binning House is revered in artistic, architectural, and heritage circles. Designed by B.C. Binning, with consulting architects C.E. Ned Pratt and R.A.D. Berwick, the house and property stand as a testament to Binning’s artistic influence, and to his pivotal role in the emergence of a regional architectural expression of modernism on Canada’s west coast (i.e. West Coast Modernism). Beyond being a cultural hub in the artistic and architectural communities, the Binning House stands as Canada’s first modern residence. It is a pioneering example of the characteristics that have come to define West Coast Modernism and the design principles which have since permeated city building efforts across the region.
Chief among these characteristics, and significant to its heritage value, is the connection between architecture and landscape. As cited in both the District’s and Parks Canada’s Statements of Significance, “the building’s stepped plan follows the slope of the land and the use of large windows, wide terraces and overhanging trellises have the effect of extending the architecture out into the landscape and breaking down the barriers between interior and exterior space.” While we acknowledge the intention to rehabilitate the house and terraced garden from Mathers Crescent, as proposed, the application also seeks to significantly alter the ocean terrace and landscaping–one of the primary relationships between the interior and exterior space. Standard 1 of Parks Canada Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada asserts “to conserve the heritage value of an historic place…do not remove, replace or substantially alter its intact or repairable character-defining elements.” The resulting pressures of subdividing and densely developing this relatively small lot acts to significantly isolate the house from its landscape. We question how sensitive the intervention is to this character-defining element.
For its artistic, architectural, and cultural impact, the Binning House holds a significant place in our shared history. The house and property, under the original auspices of Jesse Binning who acted to preserve the house and surrounding grounds, is legally protected, required to undergo regular maintenance, and is a nationally celebrated historic site. The HRA policy was developed with the intent of offering densification in exchange for heritage protection. In this case, the proposal aims to extensively redevelop a lot that is, in contrast to neighbouring parcels, modest, and this increase in development will have an irreparable impact on key character-defining elements of a legally protected property.
If the District demonstrates that it is amenable to revisiting existing heritage sites with a view towards development, while ignoring the very essence of the particular heritage value, these legal protections are thus rendered ineffective, setting a precedent which could further endanger the District’s existing and future heritage stock. We urge the District to uphold the existing legal protections and work with the owner to seek a more appropriate solution.
Steve Gairns (Chair), Adele Weder, Chelsea Louise Grant, Geoffrey Massey, Jeanette Langmann, John Patkau, Kim Smith, Wendi Campbell.
–Board of Directors, West Coast Modern League
2015.07.10 – STATEMENT ON IMPENDING SALE OF THE B.C. BINNING HOUSE
VANCOUVER: After a lengthy court battle, the 1941 historic B.C. Binning House has finally been sold to a private buyer and the net proceeds will go to the University of British Columbia, as per the secondary wish stated in the will of Jessie Binning. Jessie’s first wish, as expressed in her will, was to have the House maintained for historic and scholarly purposes for the wider community. In the spirit of collaboration, we encourage the buyer whose own intentions honour the essence of Jessie’s first wish, who is appreciative of its unique cultural and historic value, and whose own plans for the house dovetail with the following:
- commitment of a minimum expenditure of $250,000 to restore the House;
- intention to allow limited periodic scholarly and community access to the House.
- consideration of a heritage covenant under Section 219 of the provincial Land Title Act to strengthen the current municipal protection against alteration or demolition;
Along with so many others in the community and across Canada, we are hoping that the impending sale will generate a positive outcome.
Adele Weder, Wendi Campbell, John Patkau, Mike Bernard, Kim Smith, Gavin Froome, Cameron McLellan and Jeanette Langmann
—Board of Directors, West Coast Modern League
Phyllis Lambert, Founding Director Emeritus, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal
Linda Fraser, Archivist and Chief Curator, Canadian Architectural Archives, Calgary
Cornelia Oberlander, Landscape Architect, Vancouver
—Advisors to the Board